Friday, October 30, 2009

Twitter Lists 101: Etiquette & Strategies

Like Twitter itself, there is no right or wrong way to use Twitter Lists. But there are some basic rules of etiquette along with some strategies that I've observed in the week I've been playing around with them.

Parameters of Lists:
Etiquette: Currently, Twitter is allotting users 20 lists with a maximum of 500 persons per LIst. This initially seems like ample space but once you get into the process of creating Lists, you might find yourself hitting the limits. It's unknown whether Twitter will eventually offer users the ability to create more or larger Lists.

Strategy: Play around with Lists. Create some and delete the ones that you find aren't useful. For example, I was initially creating geographic Lists but I found that some Lists only had a dozen or fewer names on them and I wasn't going to be looking at them very often. So, I deleted them and created a few topical lists that would provide more value to me.


Public & Private
Etiquette: You have the option to make your Lists public or private. If you create a Private List, the people who are on it will not be informed or aware of their presence on it. You may want to keep Lists of family, closest friends, or people you despise private if you are concerned with revealing too much about your personal life or offending or embarrassing others.

Strategy: I've started to keep Lists I'm still in the process of building private and when I think they are finished, I've changed their status to public. Remember, through the Edit feature, you can always make a public List, private and vice versa.


Following vs. Lists:
Etiquette: Unlike Following, Twitterers don't assume Lists are reciprocal. Because each user has their own rationale for creating lists (friends, colleagues, news feeds, celebrities, etc.), it's not expected that you will put everyone you follow on a List or that people you put on to a List will somehow have a List that you will be appropriate for.

Strategy: There are always some people who you follow who will never follow you back. They could be celebrities, high profile Twitterers or just be highly selective about who they follow. So, it's impossible to create the kind of reciprocal friendship that many people seek in social networking. I've found one strategy is to stop following those users and put them on a List instead. This lightens the load on my Tweetstream but means I can still click on the List and see what they are up to.


What's in a Name?
Etiquette: You're not allowed many characters when you name a List so you should give your Lists names that concisely sum up the rationale for including people on them. Examples might be Journalists, Friends, Web Designers, Music, Chicago, People I've Met or Conference Presenters. However, putting together a List of celebrities or high profile Twitterers and naming it My Friends will make you look delusional! You can use Lists titled Most Influential or Thought Leaders to flatter popular people but considering the hundreds of Lists some of them are on, your effort is likely to go unnoticed.

Strategy: One way you can make your List memorable is to give it a descriptive but interesting name. List names like Argumentative, People Who Owe Me Money, All the Geeky Ladies, and The South: Tech Scene give you an idea of why individuals are on a List but distinguish your List from the generic titles most Lists are given. Names that are too obscure (People From That Dinner) mean that the List will only be of use to you. Through the Edit option, you can rename your List whenever you choose.


Good Lists & Bad Lists
Etiquette: So far, most Lists I've seen have been complimentary and are composed of people the Twitterer admires or considers friends. But Lists are neutral tools and can be used to highlight enemies as well as friends.

Strategy: If you find yourself on a List with an uncomplimentary name (Douchebags) you can block the List creator and you will find yourself removed from the List. Of course, this only works for Lists that are public as you are not informed of your presence on an individual's private List.


Personal or Shared?
Etiquette: I've seen some speculation that how many Lists an individual is on will be the new sign of popularity rather than how many Followers a user has. However, considering how easily this feature can be manipulated--an Twitterer creating dozens of bogus accounts & Lists that include them--, having a high List count is not necessarily a sign of quality.

Strategy: A better strategy than trying to be placed on a lot of Lists is to create truly memorable Lists and have people follow them. Instead of considering your Lists to be an address book of your friends, create one or two Lists that reveal your deep knowledge of a field. For example, I saw an awesome Music List of 500 Indie musical artists & labels that I could never reproduce myself. Following other people's well-crafted Lists not only exposes you to users you'd never otherwise have heard of but is a compliment to the Twitterer who spend the time & effort putting a dynamic List together.


Reources: If you have an amazing List you've created & want to share or you are looking for other great Lists you want to check out, go to Listorious, a directory of Twitter Lists. There will undoubtedly be other tools that arise in the coming weeks but Listorious does a great job, acting as a WeFollow for Lists and allowing people to check out the most popular lists as well as contribute their own. I highly recommend checking out their tags for Lists that might be of interest to you.

What amazing Lists have you come across that you'd like to recommend?

18 comments:

Tojosan said...

Don't have too many amazing lists on my list of lists yet, but reading this made me want to make that happen.

I just wrote about Lists as well if you'd care to visit - http://www.toddrjordan.com/thebroadbrush/2009/10/opt-in-and-opt-out-twitter-lists/

LilPecan said...

I spent hours creating several lists and already regret it. There are too many people I like for a variety of reasons for me to single some out. I may end up just deleting them but this will undoubtedly hurt some feelings since not everyone will understand my intent is to be inclusive rather than exclusive.
Great post! Thank you for writing it.

Liz said...

I'll check out your blog entry, Todd. I'm interested in seeing other people's interpretation of how best to use them.

Emma, I have two things that come to mind.

1) I don't feel left out by not being included on other people's lists, even people I know well. People use lists for their own purposes. Don't feel like you have to have everyone you follow on one list or another.

2) If you still are worried about hurting people's feelings just make your lists go private. Then, they will still be useful to you and don't have to worry about anyone feeling like they've been left off.

I have a 3rd idea but I'll DM you about it!

J.J said...

I agree with your strategies overall. I think the goal of every list should be to create a good blend of updates that are useful to people in a certain topic or people that discuss certain things deeply. I found a list about Typography that I'm loving because it's stuff I would've never found out before.

Again with lists great content is King.

digiphile said...

Considering both etiquette and then the strategy to approach the issues raised was both utilitarian and elegant. Thank you for that.

I'm a fan of Listorious. And I like @palafo/linkers.

PaintDog said...

I just breezed through the post, but will come back later to fully digest the very helpful info.

I've been avoiding list creation - I started a couple - I see the value in them, but realized I didn't want to invest the time. Your tips have made me think I may want to make the effort, at least for a couple of lists.

Melissa Ward said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Melissa Ward said...

I am still playing with lists - but I like your ideas and overall view point. I am still concerned with those who may feel excluded. I see lists as a great tool for me, in keeping relationships grouped, but still unsure of the value to others. I liked your music example though.

Much food for thought - thank you!

(edited to remove typos) :)

ebadrina said...

Nice! Great tips; thanks for the concise strategies.

Before Game Design said...

It has been interesting to see myself cast into some roles that I would not really give myself. From the communities I am involved in, they are small enough that not being included on a list could be construed as not being included in a group. But then, we are talking about ego and not the functionality of a list.

A fun side-note. Someone created a group called peoplewhoarenicklalone as a reference to some tweets about feeding some egos. I'd imagine this has happened and will continue to happen for a while.

The interesting thing is that one of the communities I am interested in is usually pointed to as inclusive and 'circle-jerkish'. The first thing I thought I would see when the lists were created was someone outside of that inclusive group labeling the community as to draw a line in the sand.

Thankfully, I haven't seen it but that it could exist in that realm is indicative of the only problem I can think of, small group exclusion and inclusion.

Liz said...

Thank you all for taking the time to comment. Your feedback is appreciated. I'm puzzling now about a couple new topics that I might write about. Interest in my research project is kind of limited and these guides seem to be useful.

I think I'll try to straddle both worlds of articles with popular appeal & also insights using the stats I've collected. Thanks again.

Steven said...

Appreciate you taking the time to talk about etiquette of list making. Every little bit of information helps so many people navigate through this new feature! ~Steve

http://dopodomani.me

lynette said...

Thank you for your thoughtful comments on lists. I too see the value in concerning yourself with creating great lists rather than worrying about how many lists you are on. At this moment, I have more people following the lists I have created than have put me on their lists! There are, however, plenty of people who seem concerned about the "high school" feel to lists. I have seen that exact term used several times. I have also noticed that many have not made the effort yet. I spents HOURS creating mine and believe that for lists to work properly most people should use this feature. And do question the "status" of being on many lists as have already seen silly things like a guy who has only tweeted twice but has been listed 12 times.

bullionsInvestor said...
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desaraev said...

What great observations. Thank you so much for sharing this post with me Liz.

Auto Twitter Marketing Tools said...
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